After days of extreme dry heat, the weather gods have decided it’s time to give us a break. It’s a about 23’C and overcast as I slide out of my bivy. Annoyingly, I am still awake too early and can’t get back to sleep. But the view of Szeged on the other side of the river is fantastic and it’s really no hardship to be up.
I jump on my bike and start to ride out of the camping to buy some bread and bananas for breakfast when the Belgian couple camping nearby call out to me. I spoke with them yesterday and they know I understand their Flemish words. I am invited to join them for breakfast. They have only two chairs but a step ladder will suffice. They share their food and I enjoy some bread, bananas and yoghurt washed down with a very delicious herbal tea. By the time I leave their camp it is 11:30am … four hours after I sat down.
I hang out at the camping ground using the wifi to knock out some work. The guy from the camping comes over with some pork and cabbage that his mother made me for lunch. It’s delicious. We talk for a few hours about his life in Hungary and his experiences of where his country has been and is going. He explains that the average wage in Hungary for an educated person is about 250-300 euros a month and that the people who mow lawns or are working to renovate the camping ground swimming pool might make 150 euros a month if they are lucky. Most young Hungarian people stay living at home for a long time (he’s in his early thirties but cannot afford to move in with his girlfriend due to financial hardship). I hear about how in 2008 the housing market crashed in Hungary. Not like in Australia where the market dropped about 10% but crashed to the extent that people like his family lost their homes and lost all their equity too. This is why there are so many houses either abandoned or for sale. Because the owners cannot afford the repayments and no one can afford to buy the houses. He has a degree in philosophy from a German university; speaks Hungarian, English and German fluently; is gregarious and generous. Yet it’s a struggle. He tells me personalities and behaviours, and how it will take 3-4 generations to overcome these effects but that the global world expects Hungary (and other former Soviet nations) to change within 1-2 generations. (I should mention that my mother told me something similar). It’s interesting and I am grateful to him for being so open about his experiences. He tells me that he is a patriot and missed Hungary while he was studying abroad. He wants a better future for his country and his countrymen. And he has decided that he will do his part by being friendly, outgoing and welcoming to foreigners so that they enjoy his country and share positive stories about their experiences. He doesn’t resent the West for being wealthy. Rather, he knows that the money we spend in his country will eventually help and that our ideas and happiness might be infectious.
Later he invites me to dinner with his girlfriend. They take me to a fish soup restaurant. The meal is absolutely delicious and the company even more so. I just wish it wasn’t so prohibitively expensive for them to come to Australia because I’d love to show them around my country too. I can only hope to come to Hungary again to catc